Remedial research with the New Yorker
If, as the latest "Contributors" appears to suggest, Bill Buford is the official New Yorker food writer, they are going to have to invest in some better fact-checkers. In a series of errors reminiscent of his earlier offenses, Buford writes:
Dessert is a modern concept. Chaucer didn't eat one. Neither did Shakespeare. Even as late as the sixteen-sixties, in the diaries of Samuel Pepys, and nearly two centuries after Columbus returned with the first parcel of New World sugar... there won't be a single mention of chocolate cake.
If anything, Columbus brought sugarcane to the new world, since it was unknown there before the conquest. This fact is so elementary, and easily ascertained, that it is hard to imagine Buford doing any research at all, unless it consisted of perusing equally erroneous Haaaagen-Dazs advertisements.
Buford goes on, like all English majors, to confuse the word with the thing, saying that no one ate dessert before 1550, which is ridiculous. The course of fruits and cakes in Chapter 60 of the Satyricon may not fall at the absolute end of Trimalchio's banquet, but it is still recognizably a dessert: Petronius calls it a pompa, presumably in the sense of an ostentatious display, but it also means a (farewell) procession. Certainly more of a dessert than Buford's emetic/emblematic DQ banana split.
So my question to you, emdashes, is why Bill Buford is allowed to write about things he understands so poorly. At least get him a fact-checker.